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Presented by Emmanuel Caparis
In January 1965, The Detroit Edison Company began a
five-year comprehensive study of Detroit and the adjacent
area under its direct influence for the purpose of
analyzing, understanding and exploring its growth
patterns, potentialities and future requirements.
Detroit Edison wished to contribute to the improvement
and well-being of people and industry. It also wanted to
know how to meet best the increasing requirements for
electric energy.
Research into the ekistic phenomena of
the Urban Detroit Area required
examination of conditions and
developments in all of North America, an
emerging Great Lakes Megalopolis, and
the entire Great Lakes Area
Research into the economic, social, cultural and physical
problems facing man in the Urban Detroit Area was first
proposed by Walker L. Cisler, Chairman of the Board, The
Detroit Edison Company. Mr. Cisler was keenly aware that
there is only one way for man to cope with these problems
and this is by opening his eyes to them, understanding
them, and exploring all possible solutions. He was
determined that the study would not be a superficial one.
As a result, Mr. Cisler asked Doxiadis Associates of Athens,
Greece, international consultants on urban planning, to
undertake a thorough study of the Urban Detroit Area.
Wayne State University also was asked to participate
because it would provide the opportunity to deploy the
resources of students and faculties in the solution of
urgent problems facing Detroit and other cities.
Thus Detroit Edison created the "Developing Urban Detroit
Area Research Project," a study on a scale never before
attempted for an entire urban region.
Areas of greatest population density occur
primarily on the Atlantic seaboard, along
the southern shores of the Great Lakes
and on the Pacific coast. A secondary
pattern of high density has developed on
both sides of the Appalachians. There are
also some high densities along the Gulf
coast and in Florida.
The study was planned in three phases: The first consisted
of an inventory and analysis of existing conditions. The
findings of this phase of the study were presented in
Volume 1, Analysis. The second phase deals with future
evolutions and forecasts. The report on this phase of the
study is titled Future Alternatives. The third phase,
elaborates on the findings of the preceding two phases and
provides concept plans and proposals for the future
development of UDA (Urban Detroit Area) the Central
Region, the Detroit Central City and the Central Business
District of Detroit. The report on this last phase of the
study is titled A Concept for Future Development.
Although this study is primarily concerned with the Urban
Detroit Area, its patterns and problems of ekistic
development (ekistic meaning the science of human
settlements) are essentially
throughout the world.
The Developing Urban Detroit Area Research Project has
been carried out by teams of experts in the United States
and in Greece, and has been based on the work of
thousands of people who carefully followed and collected
data on the phenomena of the Urban Detroit Area and the
broader space around it.
To define the Urban Detroit Area, it was
necessary to consider present and future
growth trends in urbanization throughout
the Great Lakes Area. It was also
necessary to determine spheres of
influence of neighboring urban centers
(Chicago, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and
Toronto) similar in scale to Detroit.
The Four Scales of Overall Analysis
At the beginning, the UDA Research Project was to
concentrate on the 7,600 square miles of south-eastern
Michigan served by Detroit Edison. This is about oneeighth of Michigan but slightly more than half of the
people in the state live and work in this area. At its center
is the urban complex of Detroit.
However, it became apparent at the early stages of the
study that a clear understanding of the ekistic phenomena
within the Detroit Edison service area could not be
achieved unless the wider area under the direct influence
of Detroit was analyzed with the same degree of detail.
To this end, the study area was extended beyond the
limits of the Company's service area and covers all such
zones which are or would be ultimately influenced by the
physical expansion of Detroit's urban development.
Investigation showed that Detroit's area of influence
extends within Michigan and to northern Ohio as well as to
Canada; its boundaries to be at distances from the center
of Detroit ranging from 75 to 100 miles. The study area—
referred to as the Urban Detroit Area—covers 23,059
square miles and comprises 25 of the 83 Michigan
counties, 9 counties in Ohio and 3 counties in Ontario,
This map illustrates the basic distribution
of population in the Great Lakes Area.
There are two major axes of
concentration meeting in Detroit: a line
between Chicago, Detroit and Toronto;
the second from Chicago to Detroit,
Cleveland and Pittsburgh. Already evident
are extensions of the Chicago-DetroitToronto axis to Montreal and through
Buffalo and the Mohawk Valley to New
York; and of the second line through the
Potomac River Valley to Washington. A
third connection along the southern shore
of Lake Erie is represented by the ToledoCleveland-Buffalo axis.
Obviously, what occurs in UDA is affected by conditions
and developments in the entire Great Lakes Area and,
indeed, in all of North America. As a result, the Urban
Detroit Area was examined against the background of
corresponding evolutions within four scales of descending
size. Scale I: U.S.A. and Canada. Scale II: Great Lakes
and Eastern Megalopolis. Scale III: The Great Lakes Area.
Scale IV: The Urban Detroit Area. Each scale is shown on
the map.
The Great Lakes Area represents the most important
geographic division of the United States in terms of
concentration of population and U.S. manufacturing. It has
substantial agricultural production, a major concentration
of income, and is traversed by the most important land
transport axis in the United States and the most important
inland waterway system of the world—the Great Lakes and
the St. Lawrence Seaway, The Canadian part of the Great
Lakes (mainly the Province of Ontario) represents by far
the most important concentration of all socio-economic
activities in Canada. Three of the most important urban
concentrations in the United States are in the Great Lakes
Area. The second most important megalopolis of North
America is in process of formation in the Great Lakes Area.
For the purpose of this study, it is
assumed that UDA population in the year
2000 might reach a level as low as 12
million and as high as 18 million. A
medium projection of 15 million is
The Urban Detroit Area lies at the crossroads of the Great
Lakes water routes and the land route to Canada. In
addition, UDA is at the junction of the two most important
axes of urbanization within the area (Chicago-DetroitToronto-Montreal
Chicago-Detroit-ClevelandPittsburgh). UDA is one of the most dynamic urban areas
of the Great Lakes Area, one of the most important and
fast-growing regions of North America.
The objective of this phase of the Research Project was to
provide an integrated picture of development in the Urban
Detroit Area. Doing this, the study could proceed to the
second phase.
The present functions and structure of the urban area of
Detroit do not correspond to the potentialities of the
location. Because of forces inherent in the city of Detroit,
there is a certain course of development that will be
followed. Unless major changes take place, this course is
not expected to alter and the results can be foreseen
within reasonable limits of approximation.
Possible locations for major UDA
functions, such as industrial, research or
education activities, are shown in this
map. Through the elimination of
alternatives, only those locations which
are placed by major communication axes
are considered. The nine locations shown
are reduced to an even smaller number
on the basis of suitability.
This is true of all cities. The conventional method of
planning and foreseeing the future is to extrapolate
present trends to try to discover where the present course
is leading. In transportation, for example, new arteries are
planned to take care of existing trends as they develop.
This approach does not give the transportation system the
latitude it requires to take change into account. This kind
of planning often leads to impossible situations. Existing
centers of activities, existing axes of transportation
become congested and paralyzed.
The method of extrapolation of present trends into the
future has to be carefully used, not to show where the city
should go but where the city is going now and where such
a trend will lead to. If present trends should lead to
impossible situations, it is necessary to demonstrate which
these situations are, which dangers are created for the
city, and which problems it will have to face in the future.
On the basis of these considerations this phase of the
study proceeded to the extrapolation of Detroit's growth
through expansion in the future for the year 2000. Data
examined and ensuing projections were based on
urbanization trends, general growth trends, residential
densities, population growth trends and several local
factors such as transportation, service facilities and
The results show that if present trends continue,
population in the Urban Detroit Area will total
approximately 15 million by the year 2000. Detroit, which
had a population of about 3.5 million in its urbanized area
in 1960, will have about 8 million. This 128 percent
increase (about 4.5 million people) will mean an even
greater percentage increase in the number of cars, and in
movements of people and goods.
The study of the most probable patterns
of communication networks, in
combination with various sets of speeds,
led to the acceptance of eight systems of
transportation with corresponding
Analysis of the continuation of the present course leads to
the conclusion that it must be changed. But how?
New Goals for UDA
Goals must be set which can lead to avoidance of the
problems that make the present course unacceptable.
These goals will have to be set further in the future and
will define the desired conditions for a better urban area
which will not have the weaknesses of the present one. As
these goals will be set further in advance, in this case by
the year 2000, it will be necessary to connect the point set
by the future goals with the existing situation in order to
estimate how we can move from one to the other. For
example, a situation may be desired which is reasonable
but not feasible for the target year 2000, or which may be
unreasonable for any period.
The principal objective of the second phase of the UDA
Research Project is to study the existing trends and
analyze the resulting problems of urban growth as well as
to provide a method for the prediction of the reasonable
alternatives of future development. The comparison of
these alternatives can lead to the achievement of optimum
conditions for the Urban Detroit Area.
UDA is expected to continue its dynamic
growth. High population density is
projected for the year 2000 in the areas
of metropolitan Detroit, Port Huron and
In this phase it is important to consider the future
alternatives for UDA most carefully. What size and type of
development can be expected? What should be done to
give this development an orderly form? How can the
people and their leaders avoid the all too natural mistakes
that have been made here and in other parts of the world
in the process of broad scale urbanization?
For a city as large as Detroit these alternatives number in
the thousands. For a system of cities such as the Urban
Detroit Area there are millions of alternatives.
The proper method for the selection of the best
alternatives must be based on the isolation of dimensions
and the elimination of alternatives. In order to evaluate,
compare and eliminate alternative solutions in a
systematic manner, Doxiadis Associates developed a
special methodology. This methodology is the first attempt
at the study of alternative patterns of development to
provide a comprehensive framework for comparisons and
for selection of the optimum solution. Due to the many
millions of possible alternatives, the IDEA method was
developed for the isolation of dimensions, the elimination
of less desirable alternatives and the selection of the best
through the extensive use of computers.
On the basis of the rating of alternatives
and consideration of such transportation
characteristics as person-trips, personflows, person-miles and person-time
traveled, the study accepts the
establishment of the theoretical
metropolitan and regional networks
shown above as a possible solution to
transportation pressure in UDA.
The future of the Urban Detroit Area depends on the
conception of its proper role within the Great Lakes
Megalopolis, the Great Lakes Area, and North America in
Its intrinsic natural role has been that of a major trade and
transportation center. Its acquired natural role is that of a
major metropolitan area with high-order service functions.
Its actual role is that of the most important manufacturing
center of an area which constitutes the heart of U.S.
There is no doubt that the future of UDA will depend on
the fulfillment of all its roles and the achievement of a
correct balance among them.
The objective of the third phase of the Research Project is
to provide a concept for future development, plans and
programs for the successful future growth of UDA.
The final selection of the alternative leading to the best
concept plan for the future development of UDA is based
on the value of each alternative and on the future that it
can create, if one takes into account what is inevitable,
what is desirable and what is feasible.
Based on the change of land use
between the years 1900 and 1960, it is
possible to project urbanization trends in
UDA. The extrapolation of the nonfarmland trends suggests a considerable
expansion of the non-farmland area by
the year 2000 and indicates that a large
percentage of the UDA will have a strong
urban character by that time.
In this third and last phase, the seven best alternatives
previously arrived at are taken and examined in much
greater detail leading to the alternative chosen as the best
basis for a concept plan for future development. The aim
has been to see how this alternative fits into the broader
framework from the national scale to the Great Lakes
Megalopolis, to elaborate on it at the scale of UDA and also
to study the impact this alternative will have upon the
lower scales, i.e. the Central Region of Detroit, the Detroit
Central City, the Central Functions Area and the smaller
units of the whole system.
The study of alternative futures for UDA has shown that
there are many possible alternatives which promise a much
better future than that of the continuation of present
trends or that resulting in the decline of economic forces.
The one alternative which has been selected as the best
envisages a much more efficient organization for UDA
than is presently the case and seeks to contribute toward
its continuing growth in terms of people, economic forces
and energy.
This alternative, which forecasts a population of 15 million
for UDA in the year 2000, double the 1960 population, has
these major characteristics:
• A new twin urban center of high-order services located
northeast of Detroit in St. Clair County, at the only other
point in UDA where major land and water routes cross.
• A new industrial pole and industrial zones in the vicinity of
the new twin urban center and a new land transportation
axis of national and international importance.
• New port facilities on the southern part of the St. Clair
• A new major airport in the vicinity of the new twin urban
• Major educational and research centers to the north of
The successful implementation of the selected alternative
calls for the reorganization of the land transportation
network on the basis of a new gridiron pattern, similar in
concept to the old one which corresponded to the
subdivision of agricultural land and the existing radial
system of highways.
The implementation of the selected alternative aims at
achieving three goals:
• Revitalization and remodeling of the suffering and
declining central areas, such as the Detroit Central City,
reorganization into self-sufficient communities, and by
making them functional components of the whole system
once again.
• Much more rational and attractive development of the
new urban areas to be created, which will house about half
the population of UDA by the end of the century.
• Increase in the growth potential of the whole
UDA, through better and much more functional
that UDA can take full advantage of its privileged central
position in the region and thus assume a leading role in
the megalopolis in the future.
The means used by the selected alternative to achieve the
above goals find their most characteristic expression in the
Central Region and the Detroit Central City. The creation of
the new twin urban center to the northeast of the Central
Region and the concentration of major functions in its
vicinity will attract a significant part of the future growth,
which would otherwise be spread around the periphery of
the Central Region. This pattern of growth will make
possible and will facilitate planning for the area since a big
part of the potential growth of the Central Region will be
channeled in a particular direction.
In this new urban area a strong center of services,
commerce and transportation will be created to form,
together with a revitalized CBD in Detroit, a two-pole
system of high-order services capable of becoming the
major regional center in UDA and the leading center in the
Great Lakes Megalopolis. This role cannot be undertaken
by the CBD of Detroit alone because of the present
conditions of disease and decline in the CBD and its
surrounding area, which result in a disorganized sprawl of
services and functions into many smaller centers. If this
continues and if no new strong center is created, it is
expected that some high-order functions will
abandon UDA altogether because such services by
nature and tradition require physical proximity and
concentration to develop and grow.
Therefore, to keep high-order services in UDA and to
attract new ones in the future, the only solution envisaged
by this study is to strengthen the CBD of Detroit with a
new center of equal importance. Consequently, the
implementation of the selected alternative will result in
greater economic growth and the development of many
positive forces conducive to a much better future for UDA
and its Central Region in particular.
The new urban center will be physically connected with the
Central Region and thus a twin metropolitan area will be
created, to be served by the system of the twin major
centers of services. This twin metropolitan area will have a
major connecting axis along the lakeshore. Two other
major land corridors will connect the twin centers with the
west and with Canada. These axes will become the main
spine for the development of UDA and its Central Region and
the carriers of major functions of regional and metropolitan
The Central Region of Detroit, relieved of part of the
additional pressures which would otherwise be exercised
all around its periphery, will acquire the preconditions for
revitalization. Such revitalization will create the necessary
for the
gradual elimination of the gap
existing between the Detroit Central City and the outlying
areas and will enable the Central Region to become the
most important center in UDA and the wider region.
Realization of the selected alternative will create
preconditions for the revitalization of the Detroit Central
City and the improvement of its Critical Area
Of course, the creation of the new twin urban center
cannot alone guarantee the complete improvement of this
suffering area. Implementation of the selected alternative
should be combined with a well-conceived program of
revitalization. Such a program should aim at improving the
Central City's Critical Area and at reorganizing its structure
on the basis of well-balanced and self-contained
communities so that it can again become the real heart of
the whole system for the benefit of both its inhabitants
and UDA as a whole.
On the other hand, this program of revitalization will not
be successful if development in UDA and the Central Region
is left to follow its own course because none of the
problems which have caused the crisis at the core will have
been avoided. This program, therefore, has to be
implemented in parallel with the creation of the new twin
urban center. Even in such a case conditions cannot
become ideal overnight. The existing gap between the
Critical Area and the other parts of the Central Region is
such that a long period for the completion of the
normalization process will be required. The results of
action in the right direction, however, can make themselves
felt within a few years.
The implementation of this program together with the
creation of the new twin center of services will also create
the preconditions for the complete revitalization of the
present CBD and its planned future expansion into the
Central Functions Area. Here again the CBD will have to be
combined with a program for the internal reorganization and
restructuring of the Central Functions Area. This program
will aim at making this whole area operate as one unit and
acquire again its original unity along the lines of the
original two-dimensional plan drawn up in 1807 by
Governor Hull and Judge Woodward but with two
important modifications:
• The surrounding transportation corridors which have
already covered wide areas will be further developed on the
basis of technologically new transportation means.
• The implementation of a two-level concept on the basis of
which pedestrians will be moved into the upper level and will
transportation. Thus the human scale will be reestablished and interaction between people will be
strengthened, resulting in the attraction of more
employment and greater economic activity to the center.
The UDA Research Project reveals the
formation of a major urban complex with
megalopolitan characteristics emerging in
the Great Lakes Area.
During the study of the Urban Detroit Area, it has been
noted that an urban development presenting a number of
similarities with the established Eastern Megalopolis
appears to be in the course of formation in the Great
Lakes Area. The heart of this emerging complex and its
central urban cluster is the Urban Detroit Area.
As shown in the map, three major urban clusters (around
Chicago, Detroit, and Cleveland/Pittsburgh) seem to be
emerging. In several cases, "bridges" between these three
clusters are already present, or at some rudimentary
formative period. The main portion of the emerging Great
Lakes Megalopolis may comprise these three clusters. In
many cases, however, a Canadian extension of it, north of
Lakes Erie and Ontario and along the St. Lawrence Seaway
toward Montreal and Quebec, passing through the
important Toronto/Hamilton/Buffalo cluster also seems to
be emerging. Another, weaker, link south of Lakes Erie
and Ontario and passing through the Mohawk Valley
seems to point to a future bridge between the
megalopolitan areas of the Great Lakes and the east coast.
The 1960 population of the Great Lakes Megalopolis was
22.5 million versus 37 million of the Eastern Megalopolis.
The Eastern Megalopolis, although older than any other
area of heavy population concentration, has a limited
growth potential due to geographic considerations. The
study predicted that by the year 2000 the Great Lakes
Megalopolis would actually overtake the Eastern
Megalopolis in population.
“Emergence and Growth of an Urban Region
The Developing Urban Detroit Area
Volume 1: Analysis, 1966
Volume 2: Future Alternatives, 1967
Volume 3: A Concept for Future Development, 1970”
Study directed by C. A. Doxiadis and carried out by Doxiadis
Associates with the participation of Wayne State University and
the Detroit Edison Company. Published by The Detroit Edison